Note: For our Super Bowl issue nearly a year ago, staff writer Barbara Hansen found a cassoulet so big, as she put it, "we had to bake it in a turkey roaster because no ordinary casserole could handle it." She went on: "It's an incredible dish, rich with duck meat, pancetta, bacon and sausage and topped with a buttery, herb-flavored crust. The recipe comes from David Checchini, chef at the Wine Cask in Santa Barbara. We've simplified it slightly by suggesting chicken stock as an alternative to the veal stock that Checchini uses. Most of the ingredients are available in well-stocked supermarkets, but we went to a Chinese market for duck legs. Note that the cassoulet has to be started the day before. It might be a good idea to make the whole dish in advance and bake or reheat it the day of the [party]."
Active Work Time: 35 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 13 1/2 hours
3 pounds dry navy beans
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 pound smoked bacon, diced
1 cup diced pancetta
3 white onions, minced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
1 cup diced celery
2 carrots, diced
4 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 pound Italian sausage or other pork sausage, cooked and diced
3 pounds duck legs, browned and drained
16 cups veal stock or chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup fresh thyme, whole leaves
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 loaf day-old Italian or French bread, cut into pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme), chopped
* Soak beans 8 hours or overnight in water to cover. Drain. Cook beans in large pot with plenty of fresh water until al dente, 35 to 40 minutes. Strain and set aside.
* Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or soup pot. Add bacon, pancetta, onions, garlic, shallots, celery, carrots and tomatoes and saute until vegetables are softened, about 15 minutes. Add sausage and duck legs and stir to mix. Add stock and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
* Place half of beans in 8-quart roasting pan. With slotted spoon, distribute meat-and-vegetable mixture evenly over beans. Reserve stock and skim fat from surface. Cover meats and vegetables with remaining beans. Add just enough stock to barely cover beans. Cover and bake at 350 degrees 2 hours.
* Place bread in food processor and process to fine meal. Add butter and mixed herbs. Process to mix. Uncover cassoulet and sprinkle evenly with prepared crumbs. Bake uncovered until well-browned and bubbling, 1 1/2 hours longer. (Check after 1 hour of cooking and add more stock if needed.)
16 servings. Each serving: 678 calories; 1,530 mg sodium; 54 mg cholesterol; 34 grams fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 5.26 grams fiber.